Posts Tagged ‘explore’

Made in Dharavi – Geographers head to Mumbai

We travelled to Mumbai, India, as part of our final year here at QMUL Geography – and here’s a bit more about the project we undertook exploring the economy that underpins one of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi.

For our project in India, my group conducted research on Dharavi’s leather industry and how leather is a local and global commodity. Dharavi is widely known as the largest slum in Mumbai, but less people know about the economic activity that occurs there!


Leather sheets in a factory

Leather sheets in one of the many factories in Dharavi


For the first part of our project, a tour guide took us around Dharavi, where we had the chance to go to various factories and see the leather production process in action. Most of the leather production process occurs in Dharavi, excluding tanning, due to the fact it is very polluting. The factories create the raw materials through several stages, and then the raw material is used to make leather products such as belts, wallets and bags.


Leather sheets

Leather sheets


After our tour of the slum, we were driven ten minutes down the road to Megha’s office, owner of Dharavi Market. Her company sells leather products, amongst many other items such as clothes, jewellery and clay pots, made by craftsmen living in Dharavi. The website aims to promote the work of people living and working in the slum and demonstrate that Dharavi is full of economic activity. She told us that ‘the whole point is to make Dharavi more visible, provide a platform and I want to make it more mainstream where regular people…who have this perception of the slum being this notorious area… I want to change that attitude and mind-set’. Furthermore, she explained that she also wants to improve Dharavi in many ways through her website – ”It’s not just going to be returns in terms of more business but also social good, so improve the lifestyle, the whole final aim would be to improve the living conditions [of Dharavi]”.


Dharavi Market (

Dharavi Market (


The people that make the products upload photos of their products to an Android app. After approving the items, Megha sells it online to international buyers. She explained that ‘it’s nice for them to know that people around the world are buying from them’. If you’re in need of some new products, her website is You can choose from a wide range of commodities, while benefitting people living in Dharavi. They have a Facebook page too so make sure to check it out!


Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market

Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market and our team

Mumbai Unbound – geographers explore two worlds in India

When applying for university, it did not occur to me that I would be spending a week outside of England as part of my course, let alone spending a week in India! It didn’t even sink in until I checked in at Heathrow airport! My trip to Mumbai was a part of my third year module, Mumbai Unbound: Development Futures. The main purpose for the trip was to explore places and themes we had studied over the past few months, and to carry out a group project in the latter part of the week.

Everyday in Mumbai was very eventful and exciting! On our first day we were taken on a tour of the city and went to see famous attractions such as the Gateway of India and The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. There were many highlights of the trip, including the visit to the Gandhi Museum, participating in a group interview with the manager of a telecommunications company, Dhobi Ghat which is the largest open air laundromat, and Colaba Market (a fun place to get cheap souvenirs). We also visited Dharavi – known as ‘Asia’s biggest slum’- twice during our stay in Mumbai. Although we all had presumptions before entering the slum, we were all pleasantly surprised. While the residential areas were very claustrophobic, there was a nice atmosphere and a large community there. My group project was about the leather industry in Dharavi, which I will be writing an article on in the near future!

Gateway of India

Gateway of India


Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat


Most evenings, we went to different restaurants, exploring the different tastes of Indian (and Chinese!) cuisine. The food was very cheap in comparison to London. For example, on our first day, we went to an Indian restaurant and ordered bread, a curry with rice and a drink, and the bill was only 2,000 rupees (£2)!  All in all, the trip was definitely one of the most educational and enjoyable weeks and it is somewhere I will never forget. I am so fortunate that I was able to go on this trip and explore somewhere completely different. One of the main things I realised is that there are two extremes in Mumbai: there are derelict buildings and poverty, but it is also a city that is home Antilia – the second most expensive house in the world!

Apart from the loud noise (I don’t recall one moment when you couldn’t hear a car beeping) and the chaotic traffic, Mumbai was a real eye-opener and an experience I would recommend to anyone.


Antilia, the second most expensive house in the world!

Antilia, the second most expensive house in the world!

Two worlds: a slum with Mumbai's skyline in the background

Two worlds: a slum with Mumbai’s skyline in the background




Perks of being a tree-hugger!

Sustainability of the environment is not a subject that should be taken lightly. The relationship between man and his environment is rocketing towards a non-existence. We should want to preserve our environment as it is crucial for the existence of the earth, every living being and for future generations. By the time I have finished writing this post, I’m sure my propaganda will have swayed itself into your subconscious and you’ll wake up tomorrow morning wanting to become a tree-hugger.
The way the environmental science course is taught here at QMUL Geography relates immensely to what is occurring at this present time in the outside world. We are purposely taught to start reading scientific journals, articles etc, instead of out-dated text books. This was something that will get us in the habit of reading current event materials. The field trip to the mountains of Scotland I went on in my first year at Easter was the stuff of dreams – putting theory into practice has really helped consolidate my learning.

The following are pictures taken by myself from Scotland, in the Cairngorms field trip (first year) 2014.

Honestly speaking, this course wasn’t something I had always envisioned myself studying. It was something that came to me in my final year at college when I was in the process of applying to universities.  I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of those people who always knew what they wanted to be. And there are thousands of people who don’t know just like myself, so it takes a bit of experimenting to discover what interests you. After my departure from Scotland and by the end of my first academic year I have truly felt even more excited and am 100% content with my course.
I would love to voice my thoughts to the many people who doubt our ability to resolve and restore order within our environment.  It is natural habitats such as these with gorgeous scenery and therapeutic landscapes that bring us down to earth and makes us truly question the impact we have on our planet and inspires us to preserve it to the best of our ability.


TRAVEL!! Last term I went to Wales for a day, spent a couple of weekends near Manchester, and went to Totnes with my friend Ellen for Christmas. During this term’s reading week I finally managed to travel out of the UK! I booked off of work and decided to head to Prague and Hamburg before heading to Copenhagen to meet my friend Bri for the weekend. She’s studying there for the term, so it was perfect timing!

I spent the first four days of the trip travelling alone. I ended up flying into Prague on the 18th of February, and I stayed in a hostel there until Wednesday. It was snowing on Tuesday when I went out to explore, but it wasn’t too cold. I also managed to aimlessly wander to where I had been told to go! I thought I had gotten lost but miraculously I ended up entering Old Town Square!

Old Town Square

I walked around the area for a bit (once again, aimlessly) before heading back to the hostel for dinner. On Wednesday, I checked out and headed to the train station to get the train to Hamburg. Seven hours later, I arrived at Hamburg Hauptbahnhof! I took the metro to my hostel there, ate a light dinner, and then went off to bed – I was intent on getting an early start the next day!

Thursday I was up and out in Hamburg by 9:30am, and I ended up going to the St. Michaelis Church (below, left). I climbed to the observation tower (the lift was being repaired – so many stairs!) and explored the church’s crypt. Next I walked through Reeperbahn (the red light district) and after a quick lunch break at the hostel I headed out to see the U-Boat museum in near Fischmarkt.


The U-boat museum was probably the highlight of the day. The views from the top of the St. Michaelis were amazing (above, right), but going into the U-434 was the best – and the creepiest thing to walk through alone! They have mannequins in different rooms to show you just how small it would have been for a 6′ tall man. I struggled to get through some rooms, and I’m only 5’4″!

Friday morning I got on the train to Copenhagen! I made it there by mid-afternoon, and Bri and I met up at the main train station. We walked through a lot of the city to get back to her halls in Bispebjerg. After dinner and a few glasses of wine, we met up with some other study abroad students and went out clubbing that night, which was awesome! The next day we went walking around Christiania and Nyhavn, and went to a vegetarian buffet for dinner. That night her halls were hosting a party in their common room (led by RA-type figures), so after drinks at a chic little place called Mexi Bar, we headed there. A fairly early night though, since I had to get to the airport by 1pm for my flight back to London.

Got back to Pooley (my Queen Mary hall of residence) around 6pm . . . just in time for a flat dinner to Nando’s!

Definitely a week well spent. 🙂


Wales – it is not England, OK?

This is important: if you visit Wales while you’re here, whatever you do, do not call a Welsh person “English.” Even a Welsh infant would kick you in the face for doing so. Wales is not England, no matter what the maps say. Got it? Good. Off you go, then!

As the massive geek that I am, one of my must-see locations in the UK was Cardiff, the capital of Wales. This is where most of “Doctor Who” is filmed and contains (in addition to many filming locations and amazing Welsh accents) the Doctor Who Experience.

My inner fangirl took over and became my outer fangirl as we made our way to Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay, which is immediately familiar to any “Doctor Who” or “Torchwood” fans:

Cardiff BayA back shot because my SQUEE-face is kind of terrifying.

After totally maybe acting out a scene or two from the shows, we entered the Doctor Who Experience, where we found one of these:

TARDISI WILL find a way to fit this into my luggage.

After satisfying the geek itch, we also visited Cardiff Castle to get our history on. There were tapestries as far as they eye could see, plus an inner compound surrounded by walls around the entire thing:

Cardiff CastleI Heart History

We also got a chance to have a proper cream tea in a gorgeous hotel on the coast, thus satisfying the Royal We itch. Wales is a lovely place to visit, so make your way there if you get a chance.

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